Politics From Uber Driver to House Frontrunner, Maxwell Frost Is Committed to Giving Gen Z a Seat at the Table The 25-year-old congressional candidate tells PEOPLE he'll bring a one-of-a-kind perspective to D.C., and that he's "always willing to learn from other voices — no matter how different they are" By Virginia Chamlee Virginia Chamlee Twitter Virginia Chamlee is a Politics Writer at PEOPLE. She has been working at PEOPLE for three years. Her work has previously appeared in The Washington Post, Buzzfeed, Eater, and other outlets. People Editorial Guidelines Published on September 12, 2022 05:14 PM Share Tweet Pin Email Incoming Democratic Rep. Maxwell Alejandro Frost. Photo: Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Maxwell Frost has thought a lot about the now-viral moment when, not two weeks after the Uvalde, Texas, elementary school shooting in May, he confronted Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a conservative event in Orlando. Footage taken during the press conference and widely shared since shows Frost pleading with DeSantis to "take action" on gun violence, saying, "Gov. DeSantis, we're losing 100 people a day due to gun violence ... Floridians are dying." Frost, in turn, is escorted out, while DeSantis can be heard saying, "Nobody wants to hear from you" as he exits. Speaking to PEOPLE less than four months after that viral exchange, Frost now knows that indeed many people want to hear from him — so many, in fact, that he'll likely have a seat in the House of Representatives come January. Activist Maxwell Frost, 25, Wins Florida Primary, Paving Path to Become First Gen Z Member of Congress The 25-year-old progressive activist is on the path to becoming the first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress, after winning the Democratic nomination for the House in Florida's 10th Congressional District last month. Frost will face Republican Calvin Wimbish in November's general election, though the seat — previously held by Florida's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, Val Demings — is considered a "very likely" win for Frost in November by FiveThirtyEight's election simulation model. "It looks like people do want to hear from me," Frost says, when asked what he might say to DeSantis now. "But it's not just about me. It's about us. We need to come together to save lives. If you're not ready to do that, then get out of the way." Coming together is an oft-used theme for Frost, who worked as an organizer, activist and Uber driver before charting a run for Congress. By his own admission, the candidate is "always willing to learn from other voices — no matter how different they are. I've learned from people younger than me and older than me." But it's the younger set with whom Frost most resonates. At 25, he knows firsthand what it's like to work more than one job, to be priced out of an apartment and to carry debt. "What we're finding more and more, our generation is gonna have the most jobs in a lifetime than other times in history," Frost notes. "[Members of Gen Z] move around jobs a lot, we will own the least amount of assets and property, we carry the most personal debt." Maxwell Alejandro Frost for Congress And then there are the societal strains, like gun violence (a primary focus for Frost, who previously served as the national organizing director at March for Our Lives). "There's a lot going on here," Frost acknowledges, when asked about the mounting challenges that face he and his peers. "We wish we lived in a better world." He continues: "That's not to put blame on anybody. There's a collective guilt here … that's put us in that point. We have a lot more to do." Fortunately, he notes, "Young people are excited about vision building. Don't count young people out." The saying has become something of a mantra for Frost, who tweeted "Don't count out young people" on Twitter shortly after his winning his primary. The road to get there, he tells PEOPLE, was winding — and came about as the result of years of activism, and a gentle nudge from his family members. "I was at a crossroads," Frost, who is adopted says, when asked about the decision to launch his campaign. "What prepared me to run was every interaction I've had throughout my life. My parents — their lessons, their work." But it was a July conversation with Frost's biological mother, he says, that "pushed me over the edge." "There's a Dr. Cornel West quote that I carry in my heart — 'We have to see the world through the eyes of the most vulnerable,'" Frost says. "I always repeat that to my staff." He continues: "Speaking to my biological mother for the first time, I remember her saying she had me at one of the 'most vulnerable points of her life.' Hearing her say those words, it was almost spiritual. I hung up and said, 'Okay, that's my sign.'" Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer. Launching a political campaign might be daunting for most 25-year-olds and their families. Not so for Frost, who says his parents weren't surprised when he announced his decision. "Since I was young, I have always had these crazy ideas and crazy projects," Frost says. There was the moment, at age 15, when Frost decided his salsa band should perform at President Barack Obama's second inauguration. So he applied, and the group was accepted out of 2,800 other applicants. Obama even danced, as Frost is quick to point out. And then there was the arrest in November 2021, when Frost was detained for taking part in a voters' rights rally in Washington, D.C. In short, Frost says, "my parents are used to it." Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Now that he's poised to go to Congress, all his previous "crazy ideas" appear to have paid off, lending credence to the American dream that Frost's family knows well. "I remember holding my mom and holding my dad on election night. We were hugging and crying and I just kept thinking about their journey," Frost says. Frost's mom came to America from Cuba during the Freedom Flights, one of the largest airborne refugee operations in American history. "Your number was called and you had 24 hours to pack up and leave," Frost says. "My mom came here with my abuela, who is now 97 and still lives with my parents. Now, her son might be a member of U.S. Congress." Civil War, the Challenges of Motherhood and Life in America — What Ilhan Omar Learned from What She's Survived His own family history and his constant interactions with younger voters, Frost says, make him "optimistic about the future." "We are moving to a place where it's less about red versus blue and more about the people versus the problems," he says, noting that he thinks people are "sick" of politicians who court controversy or use sound bites to leverage their following. "I don't think young people [on either political side] are interested in different issues — we all want resources, opportunities ... we want our friends and people we've never met before to enjoy their lives," he says. "We think about things like, 'How do we protect each other? How do we build a government that protects the most vulnerable?'" And while his themes of protection and vulnerability might call to mind other liberal politicians, like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or former President Obama, Frost is quick to note that he is his own person. "The comparisons are always flattering," Frost says. "AOC is someone who's inspired me, as another organizer elected at a young age. And I remember being a little kid and my dad watching Obama in awe, and seeing someone who looked like me, inspiring me. But I want to forge my own path rooted in the work that came before me." "Being a young black man from Florida, being a young Afro-Cuban man ... I have a very specific outlook on things," Frost adds. "But the goal is to build a world where everyone can tap into opportunity." First, though, he'll have to pay his dues — and it might require getting back in the driver's seat. "I just learned I wouldn't get my paycheck until a month after I win the general election," says Frost, who recently stopped driving for Uber after he won his primary election. "So I might have to drive in D.C.," he adds. "I need to pay the rent."